What’s In Muscle Milk?

We’ve been asked by Fooducate community members about Muscle Milk, a supplement that is popular with body builders and athletes. Normally we don’t venture into the supplement realm, but recently we’ve been seeing Muscle Milk in supermarkets and in the hands of casual athletes, so we decided to take a look.

The idea behind muscle milk is to emulate human milk without using any milk in the product. It is a mix of proteins from milk, vegetable oils, flavorings, vitamins, and minerals.

If you are not a top athlete, there is nothing in muscle milk that your body can’t get from alternative sources.

If you are an athlete that needs a boost, consider the following:

- Muscle milk is a heavily processed product.

- It contains heavy metals in quantities that are borderline unsafe.

- It is artificially sweetened with the worst of the bunch – Acesulfame Potassium, a sweetener that has been linked to cancer. And Sucralose too.

If you take into account that most Americans get more than enough daily protein, there really is no reason to subject oneself to cool sounding products that could potentially do more harm than good.

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  • Guest

    “…there really is no reason to subject oneself to cool sounding products that could potentially do more harm than good”

    Amen, sisters. That includes insipid products like the Fooducate app, a portal for disseminating opinionated misinformation and blanket statement food quackery. So very trendy and cool, these days.

    • Cassie

      Pretty sure if you don’t like the app, then you just shouldn’t use it. 

      And if being healthy is the latest trend, then that’s a trend I can follow.

    • Paix

      Misinformation? The app points out questionable ingredients and nutrition content in a way that is simple and very helpful. And if you don’t like it…delete it. The statements “may cause cancer” or “potentially harmful ingredients” are not opinions, they are things that people should be informed about. I’m always so irked by folks who comment saying they dislike something so much and it was a waste of their time, and yet they spend more time posting a negative comment. Fooducate is awesome!

    • jnwalsh1

      Gotta love the bravado of the commenters who are afraid to post their names!

      • Cartoonguy_99

        Coming from a guy named jnwalsh1. Your parents actually named you that? I bet you caught h-e-double-hockey-sticks when you were a kid.

        • jnwalsh1

          ? I’m a woman and it’s my initials and my married last name. Coming from a guy named cartoonguy who maybe should stay in his little glass house…

  • EA Stewart

    So much “stuff” in here. My kids and I tried this at a race where it was being given away. We all gave it a big thumbs down!

  • Mr.BillWest

    Muscle milk is supposed to emulate human milk … really? So basically it is just baby formula. YUM!!!

  • RichB

    Note: Milk in this comment refers to ANIMAL milk and not non-animal milks (soy, almond, hemp, etc.)I agree with the author in this post, something that I do not always do here.  Why is milk popular with bodybuilders or athletes? Because of it’s potential to increase muscle mass.   

    Milk is anabolic by nature, as “each species milk provides the specific optimal mix of proteins, carbs, fats, hormones, growth factors needed by its babies.” (1). 

    I argue that potential gain from milk comes not only from its macronutrient profile, but also from its hormonal make-up, as “there is no such thing as ‘hormone-free’ milk.” (1)  Milk contains greater than 60 hormones. (1,2) Some hormones to note are various steroid and anabolic hormones (including testosterone), growth hormone, and insuline-like growth factor (IGF). (1,2)  And lets not forget, some cows are treated with rBGH.

    In essense, the makers/marketers realized something about the potential of milk to bodybuilders and athletes and created a product to try to capitalize on that because if nature makes it, man can do better.  Too bad they only developed a heavily processed product riddled with potential dangers to the consumer.  Yupp, as an athlete I’ll stick with whole milk post workout and skip the Muscle Milk shakes.

    FYI Cytosport has another product called Monster Milk, promising to be even more anabolic than muscle milk

    (1) F. William Danby. Nutrition and acne. Clinics in Dermatology 2010;28:598-604.
    (2)  Koldovsky O. Hormones in milk. Vitamins and hormones 1995;50:77-149.

  • Tylerzajic

    I would like to see some of these articles that link sucralose to cancer. aspartame absolutely yes. But dictators is an inert substance that doesn’t get absorbed by the body. The way it goes in is the way it comes out.

    • Ty

      Dictators = sucralose…dumb iPhone

  • Cdawg2

    Is this the same for power bars and the GMC powder mix?

  • Julia9874

    there is nothing in muscle milk that your body can’t get from alternative sources.

    Couldn’t that be said of everything?  If not, what doesn’t have an alternative source?

    • jnwalsh1

       I think what Fooducate means is that Muscle Milk is one of those “fortified” products like kids’ cereals or Wonder Bread that have vitamins and nutrients added in artificially.  They mean you can eat real foods that have naturally occurring vitamins, minerals, proteins, etc. rather than a manufactured, processed concoction of such.

  • jnwalsh1

    It tastes terrible, has about a million fake ingredients in it…there are much better protein shake options for athletes in need of quick post-workout replenishment but I always err on the side of real food whenever possible.

  • http://www.thefrugaldietitian.com Nancy – The Frugal Dietitian

    Ensure High Protein Shake has 25 grams of protein, low sugar and 210 calories in 14 ounces.  Looks similar. I use this Ensure product for my clients that have pressure sores who don’t need extra calories, are diabetics and are unable to get adequate protein in through healthy foods.  Muscle milk and the Ensure product are NOT products needed for healthy people.

  • Anon

    good to know FDA approves the stuff that is linked to cancer!

    • I Over E

      The FDA is one of the most unreliable government agencies out there–not that any organization trusted with “oversight” is reliable, but considering the potential for things to go wrong, the FDA should be held to much higher standards than others (see e.Coli in recent years–all preventable). They originally had aspartame listed as a poison–now it’s found in baby food, diet drinks, sugar free candy, etc. Why did it go from “poison” status to “It’s safe for EVERYONE” status? Simple.

      In the 60s (or 70s, I really don’t recall), the FDA got a new chairman/director/whatever the FDA head is called (I did this research  years ago, forgive me for the vague details–you can research it yourself if you’re curious; the general facts are correct). This FDA head went against the available research and suggestions of scientists and changed Aspartame’s status to safe. He shortly thereafter left the FDA and went to work for the company that exclusively held the patent for Aspartame–a company that went on to make untold amounts of money due to the new “safe” label. 

      My point is that we know for a *fact* that Aspartame is a poison, and even the FDA once told us that. Money changed hands, people had their backs scratched, and–viola!–Diet Pepsi. The FDA also allowed Bayer to ship to South America a batch of aspirin that was *known* to be infected with the AIDS virus and which had previously been recalled from U.S. shelves. Money, money, money!

  • Anonymous

    My son’s best friend drank something like this sold for bodybuilders. I tried to tell his mother this was a bad idea and she sneered, “It’s FINE!” Um… no. Besides the added steroids in that particular drink, super high protein diets overwork the kidneys and ultimately cause heart failure (Dr. Atkins was a very sick man). I really wonder if he will experience kidney failure someday.

    • RichB

      Muscle Milk’s labeling does not cite any “steroids.”  If they somehow snuck in there, it would not be the first time something like this happened.  Can you cite some evidence of “super high protein diets” overworking the kidneys and causing heart failure.

      Here is an account of Dr. Atkins: http://lowcarbdiets.about.com/od/atkinsdiet/a/dratkinsdeath.htm

      I’m not saying that kind of diet is or is not bad as nutrition is an ongoing research for myself.  With that said, a 2008 article in NEJM entitled “Weightloss with a low-carbohydrate, mediterranean, or low-fat diet,” found that members of the low-carb groud following the Atkin’s diet lost the most weight, had the greatest increases in HDL cholesterol, significantly decreased triglyceride levels.  LDL cholesterol did not significantly change among groups.  CRP (a marker of inflammation and theory on heart disease) decreased the most in the low carb group.  These results are not suggestive of “very sick people.”

      • RichB

        **sorry for the typo**

        • Anonymous

          Just Google “super high protein diet and kidneys.” 

          The young man I spoke of was eating FAR too much protein every day in an attempt to “bulk up,” which he did – probably due to the steroid precursors in the weird bodybuilder milk product he was taking. It was called Russian Bear – a lot of high school boys use it, and it advertises 184 grams of protein per serving. I don’t know if the milk protein in this drink is specifically damaging to the body, but when it is part of a super-high-protein diet you’re asking for trouble.

          The kidneys have the job of filtering waste out of the blood. If you eat a super high amount of protein, your body generates extra waste and taxes the kidneys. Dr. McDougall is a little extreme for me, but here is his explanation: 


          A super-high-protein diet based on the Atkins plan (lots of meat, eggs, etc) has been shown to be a health risk. Here is something from WebMD called High Protein Diets Can Hurt Kidneys; Damage Stems from Proteins Found in Meat.” http://www.webmd.com/diet/news/20030317/high-protein-diets-can-hurt-kidneys”there are other health risks associated with high consumption of meat products, such as too much animal fats and saturated fats that increase the risk of heart disease. I think the message of our study is that people with mild reduced kidney function should be careful to moderate their intake of meat overall and very carefully consider the risk and benefits before starting an Atkins-type diet.”On the Atkins diet, people lose the weight in the short term, then drop dead from heart disease in the long term.”High Protein Diets: Are They Safe?” from Mayo Clinic:Some high-protein diets restrict carbohydrate intake so much that they can result in nutritional deficiencies or insufficient fiber, which can cause such health problems as constipation and diverticulitis, and may increase your risk for certain types of cancer.
          High-protein diets often promote foods such as red meat and full-fat dairy products. Some experts believe a diet rich in these foods can increase your risk of heart disease.
          A high-protein diet may cause or worsen liver or kidney problems because your body may already have trouble eliminating all the waste products of protein metabolism.Dr. Atkins had a heart attack in 2004. He had a history of heart attack, congestive heart failure, and hypertension (see New York Times http://www.nytimes.com/2004/02/11/nyregion/just-what-killed-the-diet-doctor-and-what-keeps-the-issue-alive.html?pagewanted=all&src=pm). There is a question whether he “slipped” and hit his head, or whether he had a heart attack and fell down.  Obviously the family would not permit an autopsy – they are still making millions off his fatal diet!

          • Anonymous

            sorry disqus squished all my information into one paragraph!

          • Anonymous

            Atkins is not a “moderate” protein diet by any means. 
            People argue about what is considered a “high protein” or “super high protein” diet.  In general, Americans eat far more protein than they need, so our sense of “high protein” is skewed to begin with. 

            If you want to save your kidneys, eat low protein.  If you want to save your heart, take it easy on the saturated fats.
            “Critics say meat-heavy, high-protein eating patterns — such as that espoused by Atkins — are linked to osteoporosis, heart disease, colon cancer, and renal disease. An analysis of sample Atkins meals found the diet was not only high in protein and low in carbs, but very high in saturated fat and cholesterol, very low in fiber, and below the recommended daily values for several vitamins and minerals.”  http://ask.yahoo.com/20020827.htmlHow the Atkins Diet WorksThe diet plan allows unlimited amounts of protein, including meats, eggs and cheese, and severely limits carbohydrate foods such as pasta, bread and fruit.This diet states that we can change our metabolism and lose weight easily, by eating foods high in protein and fat and limiting foods high in carbohydrate.Carbohydrates are limited to only 15 to 60 grams per day, while protein and fat are highly encouraged. http://www.freediettips.com/atkins_protein_theory.htmI don’t see any purpose driving this point into the ground any further. The Atkins diet has been discredited for long-term health, and Atkins himself was in very poor health.

          • Drt-3d

            I eat an Atkins maintenance diet with 65% fat, 15% carbs, 20% protein.  As you can see, it is not high in protein, but it is high in fat and low in carbs.  I am fine :)   How is your diet working for you?

          • Drt-3d

            The Akins diet is not a super-high-protein diet!  It is high in fat and moderate in protein!

          • nelliesabin’s mom

            look at you, i dont think you are in any position to give advice on a topic like this

  • Jennifer Sterk

    I tried this stuff after a 5 mile race on thanksgiving because I forgot my usual recovery drink at home, and I literally had a bad taste in my mouth for 5-6 hours afterwards. Thanks to this blog I now know it could be the heavy metals or something much worse…it’s funny how our bodies tell us something is wrong yet we choose to ignore it!

    I have been using Hammer Nutrition products, and they are made with natural ingredients; taste great; and help me recover so much faster.

  • Julie1987

    Also of note – this label gives a %DV for protein. Normally packages don’t have one for protein since the majority of the population gets more than enough, and each of our needs is different depending on our age, size, activity level, etc. Protein requirements are highly individualized, so putting a % daily value for protein on a nutrition facts panel may lead some people to believe they’re getting more or less of the fraction of their daily needs than the 50% listed here. I’m not familliar with the labeling regulations surrounding this, but I do recognize it as a strange thing!

    • Julie1987

      To follow this logic re protein requirements, according to this label, 100% of the daily protein amount is 50g. if I use the standard 0.8 g/kg/day (grams of protein per kg body weight per day), the 25g in this product would be 50% of the protein requirements for a person who is 62.5 kg (138 lbs). This wouldn’t be enough for a grown, active man for example. While this percentage isn’t completely misinformed, it could lead to some inaccuracies in thinking.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=725525204 Jim Cooper

    On the heavy metals you seem to right on the mark, but there is simply no evidence for danger or carcinogenicity of Acesulfame-K. . A controversial animal cancer study of aspartame conducted using unusual methodology is currently being reviewed by regulatory authorities in several countries. No other issues about the safety of these 5 sweeteners remain unresolved at the present time.

  • Cartoonguy_99

    Just like all supplements, Muscle Milk promises more than it can deliver.  It’s crap. If you want real muscle building potential then just drink real, whole milk (raw if you can find it).
    As far as most American’s getting enough protein: sure, if your job is to blog all day, then yeah, you don’t need a lot of protein (or anything for that matter) but if you’re an athlete then you need a lot more.

  • http://geneticallyengineeredfoodnews.com Ella Baker

    September 2010 a U.S. court of appeal found that there is a “compositional
    difference” between milk from rBGH, rBGST, cows and organic milk. The
    court found that studies have shown that rBST milk has increased levels of the
    hormone IGF-1 along with lower nutritional quality and more pus in the milk.
    American Milk: Now WIth More Pus! 

  • Pingback: Protein Powder « ahealthyhappyhome

  • Kelsie

    I love this app, and will disregard the quacks questioning it!!!!

  • captainsky

    Wow! I just sign-up and I’m lying in bed when the scan code box appeared, so I figured a give it a try and reached for a nearby food product on night table. It was Muscle Milk, something I drink often and, unlike a few commenters, I like the taste. I never realized that it was so unhealthy, with a lot of heavy metals, which I don’t even know what that really means but I will look into it. That was the point of getting this app, to better educate myself about my food or drink choices. I will certainly be phasing Muscle Milk from my diet. I’m also trying to avoid artifical sweetners because they actually slow ur metabolism down

  • Sasakidad13

    Its not for everyone. Too much of anything can be harmful to you. You can drink too much water and over hydrate. Just take in moderation and always look for low sugars and low fat count. . You can make your own shake with some ice, milk, one banana, and spoon full of peanut butter and blend. More natural ingredients

  • Lizurdfuel

    Every food has the potential of killing a human being. At least this one tastes good!

  • mike

    Totally disagree! You have to realize that there are many formulations of Muscle Milk products. The latest has all natural sweetners. You need to be specific in your claims as to which exact product you are referring to!

  • Cherry Downs

    There is NOT one healthy ingredient in this Faux Milk!!! I am appalled at the ignorance that is of epidemic proportions in America. That includes myself in my youth. Ignorance is curable, stupidity is not, and it sure is stupid to think chemicals are good for your gut and will make you healthy!! There is no substitute for whole, naturally grown ( NOT GMO) non chemicalized, healthy food. It’s NOT about the taste, it’s about the nutrients! What you put into your body in your youth will haunt you in your oldness. The problem being the biggest percentage of people will never associate their illnesses, their aches and pains, with their diet and neither does the Medical Community!

  • makes1

    Well I like Muscle Milk , I use the Banana Cream Light Powder & mix it with Silk Almond Milk , between the 2 lots of vitamins in there

  • helobuff

    thank you! Do you know of any safe protein drinks that are dairy gluten nut wheat free?